A rising issue in the tech field and remote working world is mental health and stress. Remote working is a relatively new way to conduct business and employment. With it comes challenges that are a bit different from the average workplace stress. While remote workers don’t have to worry about long commutes or smelly food in the break room, remote working still presents some real issues. For example, it can easily lead to feelings of isolation, because the remote employee is not interacting and communicating with others in-person, as most are used to. It can also lead to a blur in the lines between work life and personal life.
At WebDevStudios (WDS), we make an effort to ensure that our team members enjoy their work lives, but that they are also able to have downtime to recharge, enjoy their hobbies, and connect with family and friends. We have been working on some initiatives to help each other achieve these goals and be a healthier company, both physically and mentally. Here are some recommended ways that individuals and companies can create a more inclusive environment, and hopefully, reduce stress in the daily life of the remote worker.
Make an Active Plan to Separate Work and Home
Create a dedicated work-only location.
If you have the ability to have a separate office for work, do it! At the least, a dedicated work-only space can help you “clock out” when the work day is over.
Have a spot that is only for working. Don’t store your bills, home documents, or anything non-work-related in this space so that you have no reason to sit down here when it’s not time to work. At the end of the day, log out of all work communications so that you don’t get sucked back in when using your laptop during your free time.
Turn off push notifications on your smartphone/iPad/personal devices.
I personally have push notifications for my WDS email off at all times. I can access my email easily, but I have to manually retrieve it instead of getting pop-up notifications as they roll in. Maybe this wouldn’t work for you during the day, but at least turning notifications off after-hours will encourage you to keep work off your mind.
Work with your family to understand work time.
Parents, siblings, children (even spouses!) sometimes have a hard time understanding that when you work from home, you are working. I don’t have any great suggestions for this issue, because my family is completely guilty. My best advice here is to work with your spouse or partner, or roommate, to have a daily schedule. If your children are old enough, include them in the workday plan and create house rules and incentives around your work needs.
Take your work outside of the house.
Do you have a co-working space or a favorite coffee shop in your area? Take advantage of the change of scenery. On nice days, I will take my laptop outside and work on the back deck for a little bit. Sometimes a change of scenery can be really refreshing.
Mental and Physical Workday Breaks
Looking at a computer all day can be straining on the eyes, bad for your back, and turn you into a zombie. Projects can be frustrating and make you want to throw things. Get up, get out, get away, and get moving.
We sit at our desks on average eight to 10-plus hours a day. GET UP! Take a break from what you are working on and refresh yourself. Maybe you can go outside and take a short walk, or just stand in the sun and soak it in. Maybe you can go make a new pot of coffee and then stand there and watch it percolate. Take two minutes in complete silence and just focus on deep breathing. Whatever you decide to do, set an alarm, take 10 minutes away from the computer, and hold yourself to it. You deserve a break.
It is so easy to work through your lunch break to catch up on a few items or clock out a little early; don’t do it! Schedule a longer lunch break to get together with a friend or even just enjoy some time by yourself. And if your company allows you to flex your workday, don’t just use it to fit in a dentist appointment. Schedule a midday break to take some time for yourself.
Paid Time Off (PTO)
This may seem obvious but… USE YOUR PTO! Schedule a three-day weekend. Take a staycation week. Make sure you create time for yourself, family, and friends. If you earn PTO with your remote job, don’t let it go to waste. PTO exists to help you reset and recharge.
Improve Your Physical Health to Improve Your Mental Health
Healthy Living Chat Room
If your remote job includes using a collaborative software (we use Slack), ask about joining or creating a chat room for those interested in healthy living. In ours, we chat about workouts and recipes, ask questions, and more. We have a wide range of interests from cross-fitters, to yogis, to traditional gym goers, to workout beginners. We tend to focus on the food and workout portions of being healthy, but there is no reason not to extend the conversation to include mental health and other health-related topics.
Fitbit Step Challenges
Have a Fitbit? Join or create group challenges. For the last couple weeks at WDS, we have been holding step challenges, and it’s been a lot of fun (even though I keep losing).
We all have smartphones, so for meetings that do not require you to be in front of your computer, schedule yourself a walking meeting. This gets you up from your desk, alleviates the tendency to multitask, and keeps you engaged in a creative discussion, while getting a few steps in.
Studies show that physical activity gives you more energy, relives stress, and is good for you. Get the body and mind moving.
Increase Engagement with Your Co-Workers
Make a work buddy.
It’s so easy to accidentally encourage isolation when you are working from home. We have an awesome group of people here at WDS and enjoy having lively discussions with one another. At your company, I recommend that you reach out and have a chat with your own teammates. Whether you are feeling stressed, have an issue, or just want to say hi, I am sure many of your co-workers would love to take a little break for a chat. We are all in the same remote working boat and can relate with the issues that arise from this.
Do you live near another team member? Get together for a co-working day! Your employer may not offer company retreats, or if it does, it probably only happens once a year. So take advantage of the benefits of living near a teammate. Getting together face-to-face can really solidify your bond.
Talk it out.
Being located all over the place means that we don’t get to actually see each other every day. We don’t get traditional “water-cooler breaks” or lunch hours to join with our co-workers and chat about common interests. You can change that. Plan some video conference lunch breaks (we use Zoom), and watch each other awkwardly eat.
You could also start or join a “work club.” At WDS, we have a book club and hold Finer Things Club-esque monthly book chat lunches. What’s the newest Lost-level TV obsession? Begin a fun little group or club and get together with co-workers for lunch and talk about it. Things like this might take a little work upfront, but it’s absolutely doable.
Go learn something together.
Our team can’t get enough of WordPress, and because there are ways to enjoy WordPress outside of work, our remote team members often join their local WordPress meet-up groups. If there isn’t a WordPress meet-up in your area, start one. There are people who can help you with this!
Attend a conference, WordPress or not. You will learn something new, connect with like-minded individuals, and possibly make some new friends or colleagues.
We would like to hear from you! What do you do to let off steam and recharge yourself and keep yourself healthy? Let us know in the comments below.
Also published on Medium.